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Digital public services disappoint many, new survey reveals

Is government tech making our lives easier like it probably should? New survey shows that the majority of people think that digital public services aren’t improving

The stark realities about our digital experiences with the public sector were revealed by fresh research from Entrust, an identities, payments, and data provider. The firm has conducted a new global survey on Government to Citizen Interactions.

The survey of 3,500 citizens from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom reveals that despite widespread use, there are considerable shortcomings in government digital services and the public's perception of them.

Just 52% of the respondents reported positive experiences with government digital services, with 67% reporting no improvement since the pandemic, and 18% suggesting a decline.

Naturally, as people become accustomed to the speed and convenience of e-commerce interactions, they increasingly expect similar service levels across all life areas -- including their interactions with governments.

The majority of survey respondents (57%) expressed a preference for more digital interaction with the public sector, utilising government web portals (39%) and mobile applications (18%).

However, government agencies burdened by outdated systems, budget restrictions, and multiple solution providers, often fall short of the experience offered by the private sector, Entrust has noticed.

Despite 41% reporting they interact with government agencies in person, only 15% identified this method as their preferred mode of interaction. Similarly, while 35% of people use mail to conduct governmental business, a mere 8% prefer this method. These disparities suggest a clear disconnect between the ways citizens interact with the government and how they would prefer to do.

Respondents highlighted several issues with government services. Lengthy wait times were a significant problem for 67% of respondents, followed by unclear instructions (32%), and inconsistent service levels (30%). These data points underscore the need for governments to offer more flexible, user-friendly ways for citizens to interact, leading to improved service delivery.

"During the pandemic, we saw an accelerated shift to digitization. While that's a step in the right direction, there's a lot of work to be done to ensure those digital interactions are easy to use and secure," said Jenn Markey, vice president of product marketing, payments and identity at Entrust.

"Governments need to meet their citizens where they are and provide a thoughtful, unified, and equitable approach to interactions and transactions. Governments recognizing the benefits of offering both digital and physical options will position themselves as modern global leaders."

Survey participants also identified several other aspects they valued when dealing with government agencies.

These include: the ability to track progress (44%), self-service capabilities (44%), online forms (43%), and a consistent user experience across government organisations (36%). Interestingly, only a small percentage (8%) considered the ability to engage on behalf of others as a priority.

There might be a small catch. Already almost two years ago, experts were eager to warn that if governments became very tech-smart, digital authoritarianism might rise, and almost all aspects of our lives could be impacted by surveillance, censorship, and even social credit systems.

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